NTE Sport returned to IMSA competition this weekend at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen and surprised even themselves with a fourth-place showing in GTD. After a gearbox problem at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona put the team on the back foot and forced them to miss the next two rounds of the season, they returned with little to no expectations for their weekend at Watkins Glen.
“We went into it with basically no testing, and none of us had driven together on this team before, and I had never been here before,” Jaden Conwright said. “We had no expectations going in. We came in to just do our best and get the best possible result.”
Conwright was one of the stars of the weekend in the No. 42 NTE Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3. He started the weekend in Free Practice 1 with a lap good enough for third in class and then backed it up by putting the No. 42 Audi on the inside of row two in qualifying.
A little bit of luck fell their way when the full course yellow flew after the team made their final pit stop. That allowed them to regain much of the ground they lost after having to serve a drive-thru penalty for spinning the wheels on the jacks when in pit road.
The team was within reach of a podium near the end of the race, but a hip check from a passing DPi dropped Markus Palttala and the rest of the team out of third place.
“I’m super-positively surprised about our end result today,” Palttala said. “We threw a bunch of people together for this weekend, many of whom I had never met before.
“We did a brilliant race. We started third, and I was third at the last restart. A podium would have been great, but looking back three days ago, if someone said we’d finish fourth, I would have happily taken it with both hands. Of course, you want to win. Losing a position, in the end, I got a little lucky in the end with that DPi. It was unlucky, but I got away.”
Fourth place finish today at @WGI for us! We narrowly missed the podium, but we’re quite happy with such a strong result for our new lineup! @jadenconwright / @markuspalttala / Don Yount pic.twitter.com/T5OuZiqVOt
— NTe Sport (@NTe_Sport) June 27, 2021
Conwright, Palttala, and Don Yount had never raced with one another, and the team had not done any testing at Watkins Glen prior to the race.
“NTE Sport is still a very new team, and so I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish (Sunday),” said Team Owner Paul Mata. “Don, Jaden, and Markus had never raced together before, and we also were unable to test here, but our team did an excellent job engineering the Audi R8 LMS. They gave the drivers a competitive car, and we were able to run upfront and show we have what it takes.”